What do you feel should be the requirements for a composer to be included in the Grove? Frank Ticheli



Photo by Walter Zooi

Given the large number of composers out there today and the enormous range of their activities, the task of determining who warrants inclusion in the Grove Dictionary is, at best, an inexact science. The Grove is an amazing resource; but I really have no idea how composers are selected in this country. One would suspect that the major publishers, recording labels, and performing organizations are canvassed, but that would be insufficient given the rise in desktop publishing, online recordings, and alternative performance venues. One of my colleagues (who is listed) also suggests that it might help to have a champion among the NYC critics. If so, one would also hope that critics outside New York are also surveyed carefully.

I reviewed the dictionary’s appendix containing an alphabetical listing of American composers born after 1900, and found a fairly broad representation. However, I sensed some degree of geographical bias in favor of the East Coast. There is also a bias against those whose music is perceived by the editors to be outside—or beneath—the mainstream (e.g., many gifted film composers and the almost entirely overlooked group of composers who create meaningful, artistic, and widely performed music for young musicians). I found a few composers—but only a few—whose works have rarely ventured beyond the walls of academia, while others whose music is more widespread outside of academia are overlooked.

Despite these problems, I cannot imagine a specific set of requirements for determining who gets included, but I do know one thing. Getting listed in the Grove Dictionary should not be a crucial career goal for any composer. I suppose the most important requirement should be to create good music over an extended period of time. Then, no matter how far you live from the Hudson River (or the Thames) and regardless of what type of music you compose, there will come a time when they cannot help but notice you.